~ an alternate history of the age-old tale by Reya Panchmatia (12 years old)
The golden light flooded out of the box.
Pandora startled and jumped back, nearly knocking over a vase in the process. What had once been a perfectly ordinary, unassuming clay storage jar flung open, revealing something that Pandora had not at all been expecting to see when, against Zeus’s orders, she had opened it.
A smile, not attached to a body or face, was seemingly floating in midair, a little above the mouth of the jar. But, while most smiles were friendly or heartwarming, this one was full of jagged yellow teeth, more like a sneer than anything else.
Before Pandora could take action, the smile was not just a smile anymore. It was now the smile of some peculiar creature, perched atop the large, clay jar.
Ordinarily, Pandora would have said that the creature was a cat, albeit a very strange looking one. But cats did not appear out of jars and they did not have such unnaturally huge grins, nor were they usually such bright shades of violet. Then, the strange catlike creature did yet another thing that cats do not normally do -- it spoke.
“Hello Pandora,” it drawled. “I see you’ve decided to open the jar.”
Pandora stumbled backwards, knocking over an elaborate carved vase in the process, the loud clang of the shattering marble putting her on high alert.
A loud rumble of thunder, contrasting sharply against the clear blue sky caught Pandora’s attention. She gulped. Zeus knew. And he wasn’t happy about it.
The creature leered at Pandora once again. “Really, I should thank you for setting me free from that dreadful prison,” he continued.
Something didn’t seem quite right to Pandora. The animal had done nothing to explicitly threaten her, but there was something she couldn’t quite place her finger on that made the hair on the back of her neck stand straight up.
The creature leapt off the jar and landed lightly on its feet, padding towards Pandora, and resumed speaking. “Of course, I’m very glad that you freed me,” it said, voice softening to a chilling whisper. “But I’ve got to do my job.”
With that, it leapt forward, as though it was attached to a spring, and attacked Pandora. Its razor-sharp claws glided all over her arms and legs, leaving claw marks and gashes all over her once-smooth skin. She was drenched with scarlet blood, her arms and legs covered in scratches. It was as though the cat had knives instead of paws. A scream escaped Pandora’s lips, the shrill, piercing sound ringing through the air.
Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared the animal vanished, slinking out the house and into the endless stretch of dwellings and trees and fields beyond, off into the world.
Pandora was left on the floor, her body writhing in pain, gasping for breath and desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood from the deep scratches that riddled her body. She was in so much pain, it felt like her limbs were on fire.
Suddenly, there was a shift in the air — small but noticeable.
The room felt calmer, more tranquil, and a seemingly serene haze settled over the place. It was in sharp contrast to the bloodshed and violence from just moments before. It seemed as though the world had gone still. The birds had stopped chirping, and the rustling of the trees was no longer audible -- but it was strangely calming and Pandora was more relaxed just by being there.
A small, golden creature fluttered out of the storage jar.
It was tiny, no longer than Pandora’s pinky finger. It looked delicate and fragile, as though a strong gust of wind would cause it to blow off course. “A bit like a small insect,” Pandora whispered, although she had never seen one quite that shade of gold.
It landed on Pandora’s bloody, scratched arm. It was so light, Pandora would not have known it was there in the first place, had it not been right in front of her eyes.
Slowly, the cuts began to close, the blood disappearing into thin air. The overwhelming pain faded to a dull ache, until it wasn’t there at all. It even made her feel more refreshed and stronger than she had been before the entire ordeal. In just a few minutes, Pandora looked as good as new, no more angry gashes riddling her body or blood on her skin.
Pandora gaped at the tiny creature, which was now resting on her knee. Up close, Pandora could see that it was, in fact, a butterfly.
After Pandora’s gashes had closed up, the butterfly left its perch on Pandora’s leg and flew out the house, just as the cat had done. The butterfly was so small, it looked like a tiny speck of dust floating in the wind. Pandora could not even see it after a few seconds had passed.
Pandora blinked rapidly, trying to fathom whether or not she had dreamed the whole thing. The past few minutes had become a blur inside her head, and she had to separate reality from the confusion.
It seemed so surreal, yet something told her that every crazy-sounding thing that had happened that day was completely true.
She closed her eyes and slumped against the wall, everything that had happened that day washing over her like a wave of exhaustion.
She might have been imagining it, but it seemed to her as though she could see traces of the butterfly hiding around every corner, specks of gold dust or tiny movements that seemed like the flutter of its wings. Strangely enough, it left her with a strange sensation that someone was supporting her from behind the scenes and supporting her through all her endeavours. It gave her hope for what was to come.